The Ten of Swords is the tenth tarot card in the Minor Arcana suit of Swords and represents the culmination of the suit, which speaks to the patterns of the mind and the tendency for the mind to create inner challenges and conflicts. This card represents difficult endings and feelings of betrayal and loss.
The Ten of Swords is associated with the element of air and the third decan of the astrological zodiac sign Gemini (20-29 degrees); it is ruled by the Sun. Because Gemini is an air sign which relates to communication and duality, this card shows the power of the mind to experience and generate painful thoughts, which can lead to depression and a sense of mental anguish.
Where the key meanings of the Major Arcana focus on life’s overarching themes and events, Minor Arcana cards like the Ten of Swords explore and reveal the more subtle changes impacting one’s day-to-day life and near future. The Ten of Swords also bears similarities with its sister court cards the Ten of Cups, Ten of Pentacles, and Ten of Wands, in that all four represent coming full circle and the place where endings meet new beginnings.
Ten of Swords Keywords
catharsis, endings, surrendering fear, releasing old patterns
ignoring fear, recovery, regeneration, avoiding an ending
Description of the Ten of Swords Tarot Card
In the Eight of Swords, the feeling of frustration and restriction gave way to anxiety in the Nine of Swords. The Ten of Swords shows the result of this process, where anxious and self-defeating thoughts result in surrendering or giving up. The weight of the mental anguish has become too much to bear, and this card depicts the need to surrender and release in order to heal.
In the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, ten swords stab a man lying face down on the ground, apparently dead or dying. One sword may have been enough to kill him, so there’s a sense of excessive violence as ten swords impale him from his head to his legs. A red cloth covers his body while red blood seeps from his head.
There is a sense of undeniable finality with this card, as this man will never recover from the bodily harm he’s suffered. He lies at the shore’s edge, the ocean in the distance giving way to either a sunrise or a sunset that’s appearing against the otherwise pitch-black sky.
His hands form what appear to be the sign of benediction or the Papal blessing, which is the hand gesture that The Hierophant (Major Arcana #5) also makes. This alludes to themes of forgiveness and the sense of peace that he’s able to find in this moment of passing.
Ten of Swords Upright Meaning
When the Ten of Swords appears upright in a tarot card reading, you may be mourning a loss of some kind, such as a relationship or a job. Because of the finality associated with this card, it invites you to mourn this loss and to try to find acceptance around it so that you are able to find a sense of closure or peace as you move forward.
This card indicates endings of all kinds and may point to experiences of betrayal, backstabbing, or cruelty. You may have been on the receiving end of this behavior from someone else, or it may be a self-defeating pattern that happens internally. It can speak to feelings of depression or hitting rock bottom and is an encouragement to seek help and support if it’s available.
The upright Ten of Swords signals the need to walk away from a fight, give up a negative or self-defeating pattern, and release old and painful attachments. When this card appears upright, it indicates the need to press the reset button. The possibility of a new chapter is around the corner when you can find healing through catharsis and release.
Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)
The tarot card meaning of an upright Ten of Swords can indicate that you’ve recently experienced a breakup or the loss of a cherished relationship. This may have involved a betrayal or the inability to resolve repeating and painful conflicts. The damage has been done, either through hurtful words or deeds, and things have hit a dead end. It may be time to give up the fight and walk away with your dignity intact.
The Ten of Swords card can speak to the need to find acceptance around experiences of wounding from your past. It suggests that you may have trouble moving forward and embracing new beginnings or relationships because you are grieving the pain of the past. This card encourages you to surrender your fear and pain in order to make way for the transformation that awaits you.
Love/relationships upright keywords
Career/finance upright keywords
loss, betrayal, inability to resolve conflicts, finding acceptance
endings, painful truths, accepting the reality of the situation, lessons learned
Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)
When the Ten of Swords appears upright, you could be mourning a painful ending, loss, or betrayal in regard to your work. You may have been harmed by the badmouthing or actions of another person and are trying to find acceptance around what happened. This card encourages you to do what you can in order to find acceptance and even forgiveness so that you can leave this painful chapter in the past.
The Ten of Swords upright suggests that a painful truth has been revealed, and now there is a need to grapple with the consequences. It is an encouragement to accept the reality of the situation and to try and find a sense of closure. The painful event is now over, and rather than dwelling in the past, this card invites you to consider what lessons you can take from this situation going forward.
Ten of Swords Reversed Meaning
When the Ten of Swords appears in the reversed position, it may suggest that you’re ignoring or avoiding feelings of pain, sadness, or loss. The weight of these feelings could be so overwhelming that you prefer to try and deny them or hide them away. This card may be an encouragement to allow yourself to feel the depth of your pain so that you can finally release it and begin the process of healing.
You could be holding onto old hurts and resentments from the past, and your inability to let them go is preventing you from being able to move forward. If you are finding it difficult to accept what happened in the past, the weight of these feelings could be keeping you stuck or eventually lead to a mental breakdown. It is an encouragement to try and release yourself from the past by finding acceptance, forgiveness, and a willingness to rise from your lowest point and start a new chapter.
The reversed Ten of Swords can also indicate that you are finally emerging from a period of intense pain, depression, or heartbreak. You may have moved through a process of catharsis where you allowed yourself to feel and release all of the pain that lived inside you. This card may be a good omen that you are emerging from this period lighter and with an open heart.
Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)
In a love reading, the tarot meanings of a reversed Ten of Swords can indicate that you are holding onto resentments and hurts from the past and that this is preventing you from being able to move forward with new relationships. This card encourages you to try to make peace with the heartbreak so that you can release yourself from fixating and ruminating on the past.
The Ten of Swords reversed can also suggest that you’re releasing yourself from the pain of your past by finding acceptance and forgiveness for those who have hurt or betrayed you. You’re able to find the lessons within the heartbreak or past abusive relationship, and use them for your growth and personal development. The wounds you’ve sustained have shown you your true strength, and they remind you that you can learn to open yourself up again.
Love/relationships reversed keywords
Career/finance reversed keywords
holding onto resentments, fixating on the past, releasing pain, finding your true strength
fixating on a painful ending, unable to move forward, releasing pain, finding forgiveness
Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)
In a tarot reading, the reversed Ten of Swords can indicate that you are finding it difficult to accept a painful ending or loss which happened in your current job and are fixating on this situation to the detriment of your well-being or the point of financial ruin. You could be so focused on the hurt, resentment, or feelings of betrayal that you are preventing yourself from letting go and moving forward. Once you find acceptance, you can learn from this experience.
The Ten of Swords reversed may symbolize that you are releasing your pain and are finding a sense of peace with the hurt, loss, or betrayal that happened in the past. You are ready to find forgiveness for yourself or for those who may have wronged you, and in doing so, you are able to begin a new chapter.